Thursday, December 19, 2013

Black Moon Rising (Harley Cokeliss, 1986)

If I was serving aboard a space station with Linda Hamilton's character in Black Moon Rising, the high-tech techno thriller co-written by John Carpenter and directed by Harley Cokeliss (who's credited here as "Cokliss," but I guess he, wisely, decided to add the 'e' at a later date), I would have stolen all her pant suits and... (You pant suit obsessed pervert. Not only have you created a scenario that would never happen--like any reputable space agency would allow you to go into space--but you managed to creep everyone out in record time.) Um, you didn't let me finish. As I was saying, I would have stolen all Linda Hamilton's pant suits and tossed them in the nearest airlock. (You mean you would have jettisoned them?) Yeah, jettisoned them, I like that. Anyway, I would have jettisoned them without hesitation. (Don't you think her decision to wear pants made it easier to perform her job? I mean, her job is to steal cars, not to give shiftless reprobates boners.) Hello? Since when has it been impossible to steal a car while wearing a modest skirt? And besides, these "boners" you speak of will actually come in handy. (Huh?) What? You don't think Linda Hamilton steals the cars herself, do you? Don't be crass, Linda Hamilton is too classy for that. No, she distracts the car's soon to be former owners with her womanly charms, while a team of men in blue jumpsuits pick the parking lot clean of the cars their boss desires.

(I'm still not convinced. Call me daft, but I think a modest skirt, one that boasts an equally modest slit, would have been a far more effective garment for Linda Hamilton to wear while stealing a shitload of cars.)

You don't say. Well, I think you might be underestimating the intrinsic allure of Linda Hamilton. (Ya think?) Yes, I do. She's got something about her that transcends modest slits and skimpy hemlines. (Don't tell me, it's her captivating face.) While I don't exactly care for the smug tone you're currently using, you're absolutely right, Linda Hamilton's face rules in this movie.

If that's the case, doesn't that mean her face would have to rule in every movie? I know, when you cast Linda Hamilton to be in your film, you usually get Linda Hamilton's face as well. But there's something different about the way it's shot in Black Moon Rising. Part of it has to do with the manner in which cinematographer Misha Suslov photographs her face (he has a tendency to bathe it neon light whenever possible), but most of the credit has to go to Linda Hamilton herself, as her face oozes a peculiar brand of sadness.

("A peculiar brand of sadness," eh? Colour me intrigued.) While she's grateful to her boss, Ed Ryland (Robert Vaughn), the car thief king of the west coast, for getting her off the streets, she's not all that happy being a criminal. Having access to fancy cars and an unlimited wig budget is great and all, but Nina, the actual name of Linda Hamilton's character, seems lost.

(You're not implying that she needs a rugged, freelance thief  in her life, one, perhaps, who is played by Tommy Lee Jones, are you?) While I would never imply that, a little T.L.J. is never a bad thing.

A government e-mail is sent to an Agent Johnson (Bubba Smith), F.B.I., instructing him that they need to get their hands on the financial records of the Lucky Dollar Corporation out of Las Vegas for an upcoming grand jury trial. Not wanting to steal "data tape #757-65" themselves, the government suggests that Agent Johnson, F.B.I., employ a freelance operative to procure the desired tape. In other words, hire a professional thief.

We meet this freelance operative while he nonchalantly confronts an inexperienced criminal wielding a pistol during an attempted convenience store robbery. Is Quint (Tommy Lee Jones) brave, suicidal, stupid, or all three? Either way, he manages to talk the gunman out of robbing the store, and then calmly continues to drink his coffee. Instead of labeling him, "brave, suicidal, or stupid," I'm declaring Quint to be a badass. Why? Look at the way he drives around Las Vegas to the music of Lalo Schifrin, it practically screams badass. The stealing of the data tape itself goes relatively smoothly. That is, until, Lee Ving shows up with Uzi (as he's one to do). Since Quint knows Lee Ving's character (he's in charge of security for the Lucky Dollar Corporation), he feels like he deserves more money (he didn't expect there to be any "old friends" firing Uzis at him on this job).

Eventually, Lee Ving and the boys (his underpaid underlings) track Quint and his bullet-ridden car down at a gas station located somewhere between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Hiding the data tape in the back of an experimental car called Black Moon--one that was just clocked in at 325 mph during a recent test run and is being towed by Earl Windom (Richard Jaeckel), the car's designer, Billy Lyons (Dan Shor), the car's driver, and Tyke Thayden (William Sanderson), the car's mechanic--Quint hopes to rendezvous with the car at The Betsy, a fancy restaurant in Hollywood, where the Black Moon team plan on inking a deal with an Italian car company.

In the meantime, before Lee Ving and the boys show up, Quint takes the time to chat up an attractive redhead. Hey, wouldn't you know, the attractive redhead is played by none other than Lisa London, Rocky from Savage Beach and Guns.

After evading Lee Ving and the boys and acquiring another, less bullet-ridden, automobile, Quint heads over to The Betsy to get his precious data tape. Well, I must say, that wasn't a very interesting movie. Wait a minute, we have Linda Hamilton in a wig. I repeat... (don't repeat that.) Yeah, but, Linda Hamilton is... (We get it, she rules.) I don't think you get it, Linda Hamilton is wearing a wig and she's carrying a cellphone that's as big as a shoe box. (Aw, man, I didn't think you would become one of those blithering gits who constantly make snide comments related to the size of cellphones seen in movies made during the 1980s.) What can I say, I'm a snide git who loves to blither about chunky cellphones.

She must have a robust data plan, because Nina (Linda Hamilton) is always talking on her morbidly obese mobile phone.

Anyway, after bumping into Quint in the parking lot, Nina goes inside The Betsy and allows some dingus aggressively hit on her at the bar; you can tell Quint likes her already by the look on his face as he eavesdrops on her "conversation."

Little does anyone in the bar know, but Nina is planning on stealing a Rolls-Royce, an Excalibur, an Aston Martin and two Mercedes Benz's. I know, how is a single woman going to steal that many cars? Well, don't worry, she's got an entire team of car thieves working for her. As the desired cars are being driven away, Nina notices a strange car sitting on the back of a trailer. Deciding that she wants it, Nina hops in, pushes a few buttons, and she's off. Of course, Quint's data tape is still hidden in the back, so he jumps in his car and begins to follow her.

Oozing retro futurism and featuring cool camera angles, the chase between Quint's Dodge Daytona and Nina's Wingho Concordia II is probably the film's most memorable in terms of style. It's true, the music could have been more techno-ish, but I think it's safe to say that the sight of Linda Hamilton behind the wheel of that kooky car (the lights emanating from the dashboard dancing across her face like bolts of neon lightning), is worth its weight in scrunchies.

While the well-paid underlings in the blue jumpsuits answer to Nina, she answers to Ed Ryland (Robert Vaughn), a vintage car collector/evil bastard; to prove he's an evil bastard, he has Nick Cassavetes strangle a rival, and does so with a sly smile.

The fact that Nina stole the Black Moon without Mr. Ryland's permission causes friction between them. It also doesn't help matters that Quint (who still has Bubba Smith breathing down his neck) and the owners of the Black Moon are snooping around Ryand Towers, Mr. Ryand's state of the art headquarters (he keeps his car collection on the top floor and runs an elaborate chop shop/import-export business out of the basement).

When Nina is pissed, she drives a Jaguar XK-E, when she's horny, she drives a Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk. Look at me, namedropping car models like it were a bodily function. She drives the latter to a nightclub (Tech-noir, perhaps?), where she meets Quint, and has...well, I won't spoil what happens next.

Eventually turning into a heist movie, a la Thief, the characters spend most of their time trying to figure out how to break into Ryland Towers. It's not exactly compelling stuff, but Tommy Lee Jones and Linda Hamilton are great as a couple of thieves who are tired stealing for others. If I had my way, I would have instructed Linda Hamilton to wear more skirts, added one more car chase involving the Wingho Concordia II (the car is not a factor for a huge chunk of the film's middle third), cast Jenette Goldstein as Bubba Smith's take no guff partner, and told Lalo Schifrin that I need to hear more synthesizers on the score.


  1. Thank you for once again wading in where ADD-afflicted tweakers like myself never go, like into confused neon and bad hair car commercials like this film that seem to think a girl in bad pantsuits driving a sleek car following a Texan in a semi-futuristic sportscar down night time boulevards is worth at least 30 minutes of anyone's time. I didn't get very far when I tried to watch it a few months ago - my love of clunky phones does not reflect yours, though I wish it did and I love your use of the word "robust" do describer her data plan. If I use the word robust in the future you can rest easy in your bed of laurels knowing it was YOU, yum-yum. It was always you...

    1. Hee Hee! I love the word "robust." I try to use it at least once a day.

  2. "Worth its weight in scrunchies." Oooooo, that's good. I love Linda Hamilton and feel like she just wasn't in enough good films. Not sure if this is something I want to wade into, though. Or the "Beauty and the Beast" series. Not sure if I'm ready to go there.

    I'm guessing the Wingho Concordia II prototype car didn't play as big a role in the film because it kept breaking down. One look at that thing says 1980s super-car disaster.

    Funny that she drives the E-Type when angry and the GT Hawk when aroused. You would think it would be the other way around.

  3. Still trying to recover from last weekend's ice storm. Y-Y was hit hard. :(

    1. Sorry for the late reply. I read in the news that Toronto was hit extremely hard. Hope your house/building wasn't damaged too badly and you have power back by now, at least. Please take care.

    2. Thanks. Everything is slowly getting back to normal. Happy New Year.

    3. That's good to hear. Happy New Year to you, too!

  4. I like the band Autograph, mostly because their covers feature a robot with a robust bosom. A ro-bust. Get it?

    Would it be worth it's weight in space scrunchees? Wouldn't you have to adjust for gravity? That's a tough one.

    The drive-in featured in this movie is the same one where I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was five, and roughly around the time when this was being filmed (within the same year I guess). It totally makes sense that I would end up here on this blog almost thirty years later. Like, totally!

    1. I'm not familiar with Autograph, but I have seen that bosomy robot before.

      Screw your paper money, I want to be paid in scrunchies.

      You saw Rocky Horror when you were five? (Don't forget, he said at a drive-in.) At a drive-in? Damn, another piece of the puzzle falls into place. ;)